WARSAW, Poland (JTA) — When Gołda Tencer, the director of the Shalom Foundation and the Jewish Theater in Warsaw, lit the Sabbath candles last Friday, she was accompanied by dozens of people from various countries. Though their mother tongues differed, the voices at the table were united by a common language: Yiddish.

The assembled crowd of about 60 had come to this capital city for three weeks in July to study Yiddish, learn its grammar, sing songs and discover something about Jewish-Polish history.

The International Seminar in Yiddish Language and Culture, which Tencer founded, is now in its 15th year. Classes are held in Muranów, a district that was once heavily Jewish and where the Warsaw Ghetto was established. It was here, during World War II, that Emanuel Ringelblum hid his archive that contained thousands of Yiddish documents about the extermination of Jews. And it is here that the seminar seeks to build upon the rich legacy of the Yiddish-speaking world.

Through the program Tencer, who also established Warsaw’s Center for Yiddish Culture 20 years ago, seeks to help pass on the immense heritage of Yiddish culture.

“The nation died, but culture and Jewish literature did not perish,” said Tencer, who grew up in Lodz. “Our duty is to pass this thread of our Jewishness.”

Among the seminar participants is Barbara Szeliga, an actress who worked at the Jewish Theater for more than 30 years. When she began acting, the theater’s productions were only in Yiddish.

“I had to learn the language to know what I was playing,” she said.